QUEENS — A missing man was raised in Brooklyn, moved to Florida, visited the Bronx, and briefly turned up in Manhattan, but Kervin Freytes was ultimately found in a Queens COVID-isolation shelter after his mother spent more than a month desperately searching for her son, who has schizophrenia.
“She was screaming for joy and crying,” said Detective Frank Hernandez of the 42nd Detective Squad, who notified Freytes’ mother very late Wednesday night her son had been located.
Freytes’ sister Wendy contacted PIX11 News last week about the family’s futile efforts to locate her missing brother, who is 38. She said he walked out of her Trinity Avenue apartment in the Bronx to have a smoke on Sunday, Nov. 14 and never came back.
“His mindset is still like a child,” Wendy Freytes said.
Detective Hernandez had checked every city hospital and morgue trying to find the missing man. In early December, the investigator had learned Kervin Freytes was treated on Nov. 30 at Metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan and then discharged.
Then, an alert, PIX11 News viewer remembered one detail in the report we aired Dec. 9.
Freytes’ mother said her son smoked so much that he sometimes scrounged for cigarettes on the sidewalk.
A viewer, identifying herself as Miss Walker, called PIX11 News web producer, Sarah Vasile, at 11 p.m. last Thursday, right after the broadcast. Walker, a hospital worker, said she’d seen someone who looked just like Kervin Freytes fishing around for cigarettes near a shelter on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, not far from Montefiore Medical Center.
PIX11’s Mary Murphy went to the area Friday morning and found no sign of Freytes.
Then, on Wednesday night, Detective Hernandez–who’d been contacted by PIX11 News– paid a visit himself to the Jerome Avenue site and learned through a database that Freytes was being treated at the COVID-isolation shelter in Long Island City, Queens.
“Your leads helped tremendously” Detective Hernandez told PIX11 News. “I went to the shelter on Jerome Avenue and they directed me to where he was.”
He said it took a lot of digging around, but he didn’t want this to be a story with a tragic ending.
“This is what we do,” the NYPD veteran said, “serve as best as we can.”
Freytes’ mother, Marta Cora, called her son Thursday morning. He had his own room and TV in the isolation shelter and told his mother about some of his adventures over the last month.
“A worker found him on the sidewalk,” the relieved mother told PIX11 News. “He picked him up.”
She said her son was walking around and an officer who looks for homeless individuals asked Freytes if he wanted food and a place to sleep.
“He said, ‘Yes, I need help,'” Marta said, quoting her son.
Freytes was on the street Thanksgiving week, when the temperatures plummeted to the freezing mark some days.
His survival in a city dealing with rising crime is also a testament to the human spirit–and a bit of good fortune.
Reporter Mary Murphy spoke to Freytes by phone Thursday afternoon and she asked him about his journey over the last four-plus weeks.
“I got lost,” Freytes told her. “I walked away. I kept walking. I got used to it, and I just kept on going.”
Freytes, who’s lived in Florida the last 12 years, acknowledged the New York City outdoors “is a bit colder than I’m used to.”
“I was trying to get home,” he said.
Freytes said at one point, “I went to a place where an old lady gave me something to eat and a sweater.”
Now, his mother is looking forward to a reunion.
If all goes well, it looks like Freytes will be home for Christmas.